... in a bookshop
The other day whilst browsing in a second hand book shop I came across The Sign of Jonas by the Trappist Thomas Merton. Inside, on the front page were the Latin words Ad Usum.
What did they mean and why had the previous owner inscribed these words in a paperback in such careful copperplate handwriting? They obviously meant something important to him. A bit of online research revealed that they mean simply ‘for use, which doesn’t help much. However, further digging showed that in the past novice monks were required to write these words inside every book given to them. The idea was to instil in their minds the idea that although the book was given to them for their temporary, personal use, ultimately it did not belong to them.
So if we do not own anything really, not our books, our cars, our computers, our homes, our gardens, not even the clothes we stand up in, it is useless to struggle to achieve more; more wealth, more power or more recognition. After all, ‘For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.’ 1 Timothy 6:7 (AV). Remember too: ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Job1:21 AV. All we have, and all we think we own, is a gift that God gives us for our use on this earth. And we are called to take care of it, treasure it, as we would any gift. But whilst a material gift will rust or crumble away there is one gift God gives us that will remain with us for eternity; a gift more valuable than any other: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 AV. Finally remember God gives us gifts in abundance not because we have been good but because God is good.
So those two simple words found inside a second hand book in a charity shop remind me of the depth of gratitude I owe to God for everything He has given to me. That is where I found God today.